Sri Lanka win Hong Kong Sixes

Coming up against the hottest team in the competition, Sri Lanka pulled of a stunning victory today against the Shane Warne-led All-Stars to claim the 2007 Cathay Pacific/Standard Chartered Hong Kong Cricket Sixes, their first victory in the game’s foremost Sixes tournament at their 11th attempt.

The South Asians peaked at the perfect moment in a clash of the only two undefeated teams in the competition to win the final by 16 runs.

Led by captain Indika Saram, who scored a tournament high of 40 not out, the Sri Lankans recorded an imposing 127/3 in the final, also a tournament high, in the eight-ball over game.

Jeewantha Kulatunga, who notched 28 in the final, was delighted with the victory. “The Hong Kong Sixes is a great tournament and I think the fans at home will take this as a very good thing. This week was so special to play against players like Warne, Lara and McGrath, so I think it was a great honour to play against them and the fans will feel great.

“Cricket is a funny old game. We did not have that much pressure on us, so we did our best and went for the win and that was what we did. Because it was an eight-ball game, even if you miss one or two, you do not need to get panicked. You have to keep clam and do your best,” he said.

Shane Warne, the All-Stars’ skipper, bowled the final over of the Sri Lankan innings, which in the end was a pivotal period. Ranga Dias hammered the first three balls for 6-4-6 before the Australian threw in a couple of wides in an over that went for a total of 30 runs.

After their strong hitting, the next crucial moment came the very next ball. Dilhara Lokuhettige knocked over Craig McMillan, who to that point had not been out once for a total of 148 runs, on the first ball of the All-Stars’ innings.

Despite a 34 retired from Brian Lara and a blistering 36 not out from Geraint Jones, who hammered his first three balls for six, they never seemed likely to catch the target after the early loss of McMillan.

However, local Hong Kong juniors will still benefit from the superstar team’s run to the final, with the squad pledging their runners-up cheque for US$45,000 to junior cricket development in Hong Kong.

Said Warne: “It was a fantastic experience, everyone had a great time and we had a great bunch of guys.

“The eight-ball overs made a lot of difference in the final. The part-time bowlers having to bowl a couple of extra deliveries made a difference, but all credit to Sri Lanka. They played extremely well and deserved to win.

“Losing Craig McMillan cost us a fair bit. He had not being out for the whole tournament and then gets out first ball of the final.

“I spoke to the guys about the prizemoney and we have decided to donate that back to Hong Kong Cricket Association, so hopefully that can help their junior development,” said Warne, the leading wicket taker in the history of Test cricket.

The All-Stars did receive some further consolation with Craig McMillan, who recently retired from international cricket, receiving the Ben Holliaoke Trophy as player of the tournament. The trophy was established in honour of the former England international, who learned the game when he was growing up in Hong Kong.

Prior to their final loss, the All-Star Team had looked like the class of the event and were never seriously threatened in their run to the final. Having rolled to a 3-0 win-loss record yesterday in the pool phase, they hammered England in the quarter-finals and crushed Pakistan in the semis.

England’s effort of 80-2 never looked likely to be enough, especially with ?bash brother’ openers McMillan and Heath Streak followed by Lara batting at three. The New Zealand and West Indian obliged, belting 31 retired and 35 not out as they cruised to 83-0 and a six-wicket win.

Against Pakistan, along with England the only four-time winners in Hong Kong, the bowling was the difference – headed by an unlikely opening over from Geraint Jones, the former England wicketkeeper.

The Welshman, bowling medium pace after replacing the word’s leading fast-bowling Test wicket-taker Glenn McGrath in the side, knocked over Yasir Arafat with the first ball of the innings. He added another wicket three balls later to leave last year’s finalists reeling at 2/11 and added two superb catches in the third and fourth overs.

In the opposite side of the draw, Sri Lanka easily defeated New Zealand in the semi-finals after restricting them to 2/70.

Amongst the other teams, the beaten semi-finalists, Pakistan and New Zealand shared third in a rewarding week, while the losing quarter-finalists – South Africa, England, Bangladesh and Australia – finished fifth through eighth respectively on overall net run rate.

India and Hong Kong, losers in the two qualifying games after the completion of the pool games shared ninth.

While the big names shone late on day two, the morning’s play saw a series of intriguing games with long-time crowd favourites India and hosts Hong Kong going out in early qualifying games while defending champions South Africa were defeated by Sri Lanka in the first quarter-final.

However, it was the All-Stars that stole the show over the weekend. Added Warne after the quarter-final win: “We have got a really good bunch of guys. Obviously, we have Brian Lara, Anil Kumble and Glenn McGrath, but when you throw in Heath Streak, Craig McMillan and Geraint Jones we have a very good squad.

“We have played some very good cricket and watching Brian (against England) brings back some bad memories bowling to him.

“It is the first time that I have played over here in the Sixes and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Everyone has been very hospitable and has made us feel very welcome. It has been a really good fun weekend. We did not disgrace ourselves us old fellas, so it was great,” said Warne.

Hong Kong’s annual carnival of elite cricket, first played in 1992 and famed for its frenetic pace and high-scoring action, returned to Kowloon Cricket Club over this weekend. With the advent of the All-Star Team and a series of other initiatives to grow the event, it was sold out, with tickets lasting less than a week after going on public sale.

This year’s event featured eight leading cricketing nations, including defending champions South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and England, plus hosts Hong Kong and, for the first time, an All-Star Team of the game’s brightest stars.

Last year, an unfancied South Africa defeated four-time champions Pakistan in a thrilling final.

Hong Kong Sixes Media Release

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